Wednesday, July 30, 2014

New Poetry Series

When I write, it’s because I’m really passionate about something. Probably I’m more passionate about not giving a shit than anything else.  I'll write a series of "I Don't Give a Shit About __________"s. 'Cause there's lots of shit I don't give a shit about.

1. Crime
2. American football
3. Yer band's influences
4. Age-defying facial creams
5. Cars
6. Comic books
7. Littering
8. Beards
9. TV commercials
10. Bacteria

Serious Mood

I'm in a serious mood.
Now, I'm not a serious dude,
but yr mind comes unglued,
yr attitude gets rude
when yr balls're blued
and so you spew crude shit
when you've stewed on all
that you've accrued through
yr day to day vicissitudes.
You exude renewed feuds on cue,
ex-specially the shrewdly planned.
I need help.
I need a doctor.
Somebody call Sigmund Frood.

Monday, July 28, 2014

"Tiny Ropes" (Verse)

My problems are shrinking because I'm better than them.
          I'm stronger than my sadness
          and my anger
          and my insecurity
   and my anxiety
          and body image issues
          and malingering
          and abrasiveness
          and volatility
   and overall Hamletishness.
I'm better than my social position
          and my lack of connections
          and brand recognition
          and the inadequacy of my income
and my bad decisions
          and my broken relationships  
          and proclivities
          and poor treatment of those I care for
          and the quality of my work so far
   and my habits of self-defeat.

They shrink as I grow,
   reduced to Lilliputians,
   their tiny ropes can't hold me.
And unlike the failed physician
   I do not befriend my captors
   but instead wreak havoc upon their land
   I crush them and burn the remains,
   raze their capital
   and consume their crops.

Carl Sandburg - "To a Contemporary Bunkshooter"

You come along. . . tearing your shirt. . . yelling about
     Where do you get that stuff?
     What do you know about Jesus?
Jesus had a way of talking soft and outside of a few
     bankers and higher-ups among the con men of Jerusalem
     everybody liked to have this Jesus around because
     he never made any fake passes and everything
     he said went and he helped the sick and gave the
     people hope.
You come along squirting words at us, shaking your fist
     and calling us all damn fools so fierce the froth slobbers
     over your lips. . . always blabbing we're all
     going to hell straight off and you know all about it.
I've read Jesus' words. I know what he said. You don't
     throw any scare into me. I've got your number. I
     know how much you know about Jesus.
He never came near clean people or dirty people but
     they felt cleaner because he came along. It was your
     crowd of bankers and business men and lawyers
     hired the sluggers and murderers who put Jesus out
     of the running.
I say the same bunch backing you nailed the nails into
     the hands of this Jesus of Nazareth. He had lined
     up against him the same crooks and strong-arm men
     now lined up with you paying your way.
This Jesus was good to look at, smelled good, listened
     good. He threw out something fresh and beautiful
     from the skin of his body and the touch of his hands
     wherever he passed along.
You slimy bunkshooter, you put a smut on every human
     blossom in reach of your rotten breath belching
     about hell-fire and hiccupping about this Man who
     lived a clean life in Galilee.
When are you going to quit making the carpenters build
     emergency hospitals for women and girls driven
     crazy with wrecked nerves from your gibberish about
     Jesus--I put it to you again: Where do you get that
     stuff; what do you know about Jesus?
Go ahead and bust all the chairs you want to. Smash
     a whole wagon load of furniture at every performance.
     Turn sixty somersaults and stand on your
     nutty head. If it wasn't for the way you scare the
     women and kids I'd feel sorry for you and pass the hat.
I like to watch a good four-flusher work, but not when
     he starts people puking and calling for the doctors.
I like a man that's got nerve and can pull off a great
     original performance, but you--you're only a bug-
     house peddler of second-hand gospel--you're only
     shoving out a phoney imitation of the goods this
     Jesus wanted free as air and sunlight.
You tell people living in shanties Jesus is going to fix it
     up all right with them by giving them mansions in
     the skies after they're dead and the worms have
     eaten 'em.
You tell $6 a week department store girls all they need
     is Jesus; you take a steel trust wop, dead without
     having lived, gray and shrunken at forty years of
     age, and you tell him to look at Jesus on the cross
     and he'll be all right.
You tell poor people they don't need any more money
     on pay day and even if it's fierce to be out of a job,
     Jesus'll fix that up all right, all right--all they gotta
     do is take Jesus the way you say.
I'm telling you Jesus wouldn't stand for the stuff you're
     handing out. Jesus played it different. The bankers
     and lawyers of Jerusalem got their sluggers and
     murderers to go after Jesus just because Jesus
     wouldn't play their game. He didn't sit in with
     the big thieves.
I don't want a lot of gab from a bunkshooter in my religion.
I won't take my religion from any man who never works
     except with his mouth and never cherishes any memory
     except the face of the woman on the American
     silver dollar.
I ask you to come through and show me where you're
     pouring out the blood of your life.
I've been to this suburb of Jerusalem they call Golgotha,
     where they nailed Him, and I know if the story is
     straight it was real blood ran from His hands and
     the nail-holes, and it was real blood spurted in red
     drops where the spear of the Roman soldier rammed
     in between the ribs of this Jesus of Nazareth.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

"I Don't Give A Shit About Music" (Verse)

I don't give a shit
about John Lennon
or Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix
or Stevie Ray Vaughan
or Led Zeppelin.
I don't give a shit about Classic Rock.

I don't give a shit
about Kurt Cobain
or Eddie Vedder or Billy Corgan
or Chris Cornell
or Temple of the fucking Dawg.
I don't give a shit about Grunge.

I don't give a shit
about Miley Cyrus
or Kanye or Arcade Fire
or Beyonce
or the fucking accent mark over her second "e."
I don't give a shit about Top 40.

I don't give a shit
about Rush
or ELP or ELO
or Dream Theatre
or Radiohead.
I couldn't give two shits for Prog.

I don't give a shit
about Beethoven
or Woody Guthrie or Stravinski
of Gregorian Chant or gamelan
or the Twelve Tone Method.
I don't give a shit about Music. 

"My Brother's Back!" (Verse)

My brother, my hero!
Carved of 24 karat gold,
had been living in Tennessee.
working as an electrician.
He was strong and independent -
black haired, black eyed,
wild, a black wolf,
and the girls fell at his feet.
I missed him so -
But now he’s back!
Yes, now he’s back.
My brother has come home
and he won’t hit me anymore.

My brother never did well in school
but that’s because he was bored. 
He was smarter than his teachers
his mind as quick as that 
black 240Z he’d crashed before he left.
Now he’s in a white ‘65 Corvair ragtop
and taking me for milkshakes, 
bought me an RC Countach for my birthday
I missed him so -
But now he’s back!
Yes, now he’s back.
My brother has come home
and he won’t hit me anymore.

My brother really does love me
in spite of all those years
calling me a sissy and a nerd and a fag.
He was only kidding
when he said all that,
or he was trying to toughen me up.
He stood up for me when the bigger boys
tore the story I wrote 
for 6th grade English to shreds.
He was my hero, my champion!
I missed him so -
But now he’s back!
Yes, now he’s back.
My brother has come home
and he won’t hit me anymore.

My brother is gonna teach me 
everything he knows about cars and girls.
He’s almost 19 and he’s amazing!
His apartment has no furniture -
just a lot of empty Smirnov bottles
used for ashtrays.
To hell with what Mom and Dad say -
He’s living his own way.
I missed him so -
But now he’s back!
Yes, now he’s back.
My brother has come home
and he won’t hit me anymore.

"The Assembler" (Verse)

The Assembler stands by his bench,
electric drill in his hand and
a pocketful of screws,
putting together expensive electrical devices
so he can feed his kids on foodstamps,
so his boss can live in Chanticleer.

His dreams -
he left them in a dumpster
somewhere between Jackson and Memphis,
because what's a dream
compared to a wage?

A chorus of kinfolk sneeringly sing -
"What's a dream compared to steady pay?
When will your dreams
- pay the power?
- put food on the table?
- pay the rent?"
He makes himself a pack mule,
tries to make new dreams with and
for someone who'll just toss him aside
when the greener grass gets high.

The Assembler stands by his bench
his dreams buried far away,
once again full of ire and fire,
but now he's got a new dream;
and he's scouring some West Tennessee landfill.

Friday, July 25, 2014

"Mal de Ojo" - Vignette

*** Here's another little bit of story, part of what's already become the longest piece of fiction I've written so far, a story about a lonely person and the few individuals they're close to and a search for. . . ***

At exactly 3:00 PM that old, familiar wrapping of Grandma’s cane on my door jars me awake. The headache is gone, but everything else still excruciates.

“Get your lazy ass out of bed! I need to go to the bazaar. I need to get some things.”

The shock of such a discourteous awakening pales in comparison to this announcement. Grandma never leaves the apartment. Never.

She’s been inside since before I moved in with her as a teenager. I do all of the gophering for our dirty little home. Always have. What in the world could she need that would be so important to her that she wouldn’t just send me out as she always has?

I groan and roll out of bed, pull on my threadbare navy trousers and undershirt and red-piped nehru-collared jacket. My fingers tremble as I lace my standard issue black boots. I have a feeling of dread and anxiety. I hate surprises.

Grandma says nothing, but ushers me out the door to the stairwell the moment I emerge from my room. We’re up four flights, and the elevator in this building has never worked, as far as I know. The stairs will be a killer, as Grandma is heavy and has gout in her left heel. I have to hold onto her arm with one hand and support her lower back with the other as we descend; she grasps the handrail white-knuckledly. Her breathing is heavy.

“What are we doing? Why didn’t you just ask me to get whatever you needed?”
No response.

My injuries and sore muscles from last night’s chase and fatal fall kill with the added burden of Grandma’s weight. I ought to still be in bed. It takes us forever to get down to the foyer. As we emerge into the overcast afternoon, she breathes deeply and gains a little spring in her step. We head to the City’s outdoor market, four blocks away. Fortunately, we’ve already missed today’s uprising.

At the bazaar, she purchases a single brown chicken egg and a Guadelupe candle. Not another word passes between us until we are once again safely bolted into our apartment.

By this time it’s evening. The setting sun casts its striated yellow through the horizontal blind and across the living room wall opposite the window. It’s suppertime, but Grandma shows no signs of cooking anything. She comes to me with a glass of water and the egg. “Let’s go to your room.”

Panic instantly, irresistibly grips me. She hasn’t seen my room in years. What does she want in there now? I’ve managed to keep her out of there for so long. It’s my refuge. My sanctuary. What will she do when she sees the state of it?

I unlock the door and we go in my room. She looks around silently, just standing there holding the egg in one hand and the glass in the other. I feel as though I’m going to die – sweating, heart racing, hands shaking. At length she shakes her head and her eyes rest on mine.

“Lay down on the bed there, mijito chiquitito.”

I comply. What is this? That’s what she used to call me when I was little. My face reddens as the tears well up. I don’t let them fall, and it’s just as well since she’s not looking at my face anyway. She sets the glass down on a pile of books next to the bed and lights the Guadelupe and says an Apostle’s Creed and then begins tracing over my entire body with the egg, whispering. A long muscle in my back twitches uncontrollably. I’m in a cold sweat.

“Roll over.”

She repeats the process on my back, lingering over the area where the muscle is spasming. She says nothing as she cracks the eggshell and lets its contents slip into the clear water. There’s a foul smell. She looks at the egg for a long time, frowning, turning the glass around and around, passing it back and forth between one hand and the other every once in a while. Then with effort she crouches down and shoves aside a few books beneath the head of my bed and she places the glass there. I know it’s a ritual of some sort. But I’ve never seen this one before so I’m not sure of exactly what she’s trying to accomplish with it. Grandma is a curandera. Under most circumstances, I hate her superstitions and her little rituals and throwing of salt over the shoulder and all of that. But today is different. I’m in severe pain and feeling vulnerable. And I can see very real, genuine concern for my well-being in her eyes, a look I haven’t seen in ages.

“Now get some sleep,” she commands. She leaves the room quietly, shutting the door behind her.

It’s dark when I wake, early morning. Sleep was long and deep and indigo. I smell bacon and frying corn tortillas. The soreness has lessened and I stretch and yawn. Grandma has made me tacos con juevo y papa with bacon on the side and her special salsa. Did we have eggs here already? It doesn’t matter at all as I devour everything on my plate, picturing that obsessed wolf that I inadvertently killed the night before last. She touches my shoulder gently and makes her way to her room, stopping on the way to retrieve the glass from under my bed.

What now? I’m supposed to work in a few hours in spite of the persistent aching of my limbs. There’s no way I can miss another day there, especially because the manager has a strict “one strike and you’re out” rule about attendance, which he has mercifully overlooked twice already for me. If I call in today, he’ll surely fire me.

But the suspense from Grandma’s little egg ritual is killing me. What did it tell her? What’s next? I need to know what that was all about before I can pull myself together enough to go to work.

She ignores my knock. I knock again. And again. Finally she answers.

“We’ll talk after you get back from work.”

I can barely breathe as I walk the seven blocks to work. My heart is racing. I’m sweating again. This time I know I’m dying. Everything spins. My mind is out of control – it’s racing, thoughts flash in and out with lightning speed, some in the form of images: vivid, full color tableaux, and others are sensations or feelings. I don’t know how I’m going to make it to my job or what I’ll do when I get there. What will my manager do when he sees me in this state? Will he fire me? What will I do for another job if I lose this one? Suddenly everything is confused and uncertain. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. Oh, God help me. O lord. . . What’s Grandma going to tell me about the egg? Shit. I’ve never believed in all that superstitious nonsense of hers, but what if she’s right? What if it’s real? What if someone gave me mal de ojo or something? Lord help me. What if it’s her – my one true love? What if she is the one responsible for whatever’s wrong with me?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

It's Easy

It's easy for people to say "forgive," or "love your enemies." It's easy to make a hand-lettering project or a meme out of these sorts of expressions. But it's hard to actually practice them.

Gurus and pastors, friends, parents, mentors, sometimes shrinks will tell you that you need to forgive. But your feelings tell you otherwise. Your experiences tell you that you've been wronged, and that your anger is just. Those people who wronged you deserve all your ill-will, if nothing else.

But suppose your thought leans towards the obsessive side of the spectrum. You can focus so keenly on an idea, an event or a situation that you accidentally reach a kind of formless objectivity, suspending your own judgement about things, free of any sort of influence other than pure insight. These moments can give you greater clarity on the relationship, a gestalt, a holistic vision of the good as well as the bad, the roles that everyone played, the backgrounds and upbringings and so on.

Of course you recognize your own failings, your own weaknesses, fragility, pain, your own humanity. But with the distance of objectivity, with emotional detachment (an admittedly fleeting state of mind), you also somehow see the pain of the other person. You are able to see their sufferings, their weaknesses, their humanity. And it doesn't look much different from yours. You grasp a basic understanding of the connection between their suffering and their behavior. You discover that the only possible sensible feeling you could have towards this person, this object of your anger or hatred, this enemy, given the circumstances of everything they've been through with you, is compassion.

Even then, living according to this realization isn't necessarily easy. The thoughts of how they hurt you can flood back in. You're cold or abrasive to them, callous, uncaring. You regret your treatment of them, they who are probably just as wounded as anyone else, yourself included.

How can you deal with these potentially damaging emotions? Does the person involved know what your beef with them is? If you haven't done so already, perhaps you should find a way to say whatever you have to say to them in as polite a way as possible, guided by the principle of ahimsa (non-injury or non-violence). Express the anger forcefully through exercise and creative activity. And strive to make personal dealings with this person or persons align with the same beliefs - that they are deserving of compassion and that you will not harm them with your words or actions.

With these things in mind, maybe it's not so hard to learn and practice forgiveness.

Without Words I Defeat My Enemies (Verse)

My body is lean and it is corded.
My mind is strong and it is set.
I am well-equipped;
I am well-able
  to defeat my enemies.
My nerves are hardened steel now
a flame-forged armored shell.
My mind is a blade -
razor-sharp, well-made
  to defeat my enemies.

Without words you say I'm not good enough.
Without words you put me down.
Without words you bind my wrists and ankles
  in sustaining shackles.
Without words I know your fears.
Without words I know your needs.
Without words you lock me in a cage,
  but here I have the key.

My heart propels me to liberty.
My soul's a fiery convertible.
I am on the road to victory;
I hit I 40 west as hard as I can
  to defeat my enemies.
My eyes are open finally.
My ears are listening.
A voice is ringing sustainingly -
now I know who I am
  to defeat my enemies.